Boxing and Knuckle Pain

Over the shoulder view of two male boxers getting ready to box in the boxing ring in Beijing, China
Two people are boxing. (Image: XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images)

Knuckle pain can be especially detrimental to a boxer's success. A professional fighter earns a living with his fists. When his hands are injured, he may be out of business. Hand injuries are normal for a boxer. However, knuckle pain is often caused by simple mistakes unseasoned fighters make during training. By knowing how to protect your hands, you can significantly reduce your chances of damaging your knuckles and experiencing pain.

Punching Form

If you punch without completely pronating your hand and making sure your wrist doesn't buckle, uneven impact occurs which can cause knuckle pain. The first two knuckles of each hand should be what makes contact with the target; and the fist should be a solid extension forming a straight line from the first two knuckles through the wrist and to the elbow.

Open Hand Punches

Punching with a loose fist is one way a boxer can easily injure his hand. When your fist is completely closed, it is as if your hand is sealed into a single block. A closed fist is best for absorbing the repeated impact placed on a fighter's knuckles during training and competition. A skillful boxer keeps his hands somewhat loose when he is not punching, then tightens his fist just before an offensive blow makes contact. Some boxers, who focus on punching very quickly, invite knuckle injury by "flicking" punches at an opponent and hitting before the hand closes fully. While hand speed is a valuable asset in boxing, it should only be used to the degree you can avoid injuring your knuckles.

Wrapping Techniques

Improperly wrapping the hands is another way a boxer may injure his knuckles. Before putting on the gloves a fighter encloses his fists in long strips of fabric called hand wraps. If too little padding is placed on the knuckles, they can bruise under the impact of punches. If too much wrapping is focused around the fingers, the material will be bulky and shift during training. This will cause the force of your punches to disperse unevenly and unnaturally. If your wraps are too tight, they inhibit circulation, numb your hands and cause you to hit with an open fist. Wraps should be snug, yet comfortable, fitting your hands and wrists like a cast.

Insufficient Padding

Training in gloves that are too small also can lead to knuckle pain and injury. Boxers typically work out in 14 or 16 oz. gloves. These are much larger than the 8 or 10 oz. gloves worn during competition. The extra padding protects a fighter's hands against the repeated impact of day-to-day training. Some boxers like to use competition-size gloves in the gym to simulate the feel of those worn in a fight. However, doing so too often can damage your hands.

Rehabilitation

Since the essence of boxing is punching, knuckle injuries can be slow to heal. To keep his reflexes sharp, a boxer with injured hands will often continue to use them in daily training. That can aggravate his injuries and prolong the pain. One way to avoid worsening damaged knuckles, is to limit practice to low-impact drills. Most gyms have training equipment designed to improve reaction time, without using force. Two of these are the double-end bag and the reflex bag, which require you to hit with sharp, light punches.

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